Defense secretary: Iranians 'standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations'

Defense secretary: Iranians 'standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations'
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Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperBiden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start MORE said Sunday that the Iranians are “standing up and asserting their rights” in their protests against the Ayatollah and current Iranian government. 

The defense secretary responded to Margaret Brenna’s question on CBS’s “Face The Nation” regarding the anti-government protests that are erupting in Iran.

“You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government, a different, a different regime,” he said.

Esper said the administration does “stand with the Iranian people” and support their “aspirations” to live their lives in prosperity.

“I just think you see a very corrupt regime that the Iranian people are finally standing up and trying to hold them accountable,” he said.

But the defense secretary said the regime is the “legitimate government” of Iran, and the administration’s offer to meet still stands. When asked if how the Iranian protesters are treated will affect Trump’s willingness to meet, Esper said there are no preconditions on meeting.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien said the regime is having a “bad week” after it also took responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian plane after days of denying it. 

“This was a regime that’s reeling from maximum pressure, they’re reeling from their incompetence in this situation and the people of Iran are just fed up with it,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

Iranian protesters took to the streets Saturday condemning their government for shooting down the commercial airline that killed 176 people on board. They chanted “death to liars” and “death to dictator” referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE expressed his support for the Iranian protesters Sunday morning when he called on them to “NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS.”

His tweet followed a Saturday tweet directed at protesters saying, “your courage is inspiring.”


The plane was shot down after Iran launched missiles against Iraqi bases holding U.S. troops as retaliation for the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.